Australian Olympic gold medallist Emily Seebohm has welcomed FINA’s decision to restrict the participation of transgender athletes in elite women’s swimming, saying the sport could now move on with certainty. FINA made the decision at its extraordinary general congress (EGC) on Sunday after members heard a report from a transgender task force comprising leading medical, legal and sports figures. Five-times world champion Seebohm, who won a medley relay gold medal for Australia at last year’s Tokyo Games, said the decision would encourage swimmers to stay in the sport.
“I’m finally happy that we have a decision, and we know where the sport’s going and what we’re going to be doing,” the 30-year-old told Sky News Australia on Monday. “We just didn’t know what was going to happen and when we just don’t know, it’s hard to commit fully to our sport if we have no idea the direction it’s going to go.
“We can all move on. We can all just go back to the sport that we love … and know that we’re getting in the pool and it’s going to be a fair, level playing field and that’s what we want.”
We are delighted to have welcomed the IOC President Thomas Bach to the Extraordinary Congress 2022 host today in Budapest. @iocmedia @Olympics @fina_president pic.twitter.com/1nGoo1T1rZ
— FINA (@fina1908) June 19, 2022
Several top Australian female swimmers have raised concerns about competing against transgender athletes. Four-times Olympic champion Cate Campbell told FINA’s EGC that she supported a restriction on transgender athletes competing in women’s categories and urged people to ‘listen to the science and experts’.
Australian women won eight of the country’s nine gold medals at the Tokyo pool.
WHY DID FINA TAKE THIS DECISION?
There have been growing calls from former swimmers and coaches for the governing body to restrict the participation of transgender women in the sport, which intensified after Thomas`s success at the US college championships.
Those who campaigned for change argued that people who have gone through male puberty have physical advantages and therefore women`s competition needed to be protected.
IS THIS A BAN ON ALL TRANSGENDER SWIMMERS IN COMPETITION?
The ruling only applies to elite competitions run by FINA, such as their world championships, and competitions where FINA sets the eligibility criteria – primarily the Olympic Games. It also impacts on who is eligible to set a world record in women’s swimming.
It does not necessarily apply to national or regional competitions or lower-level meets. National federations could apply their own criteria for their competitions.
The ruling also only impacts on transgender athletes in women`s competitions. Female-to-male transgender athletes(transgender men) will continue to be eligible to compete in men`s races without any restriction.
WHAT IS THE POSITION OF OTHER SPORTS?
In November, the International Olympic Committee issued a ‘framework’ on the issue, leaving eligibility decisions up to individual sports bodies, but adding that ‘until evidence determines otherwise, athletes should not be deemed to have an unfair or disproportionate competitive advantage due to their sex variations, physical appearance and/or transgender status’.
Last year, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard became the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympics in a different gender category than assigned at birth.
Last week, the International Cycling Union (UCI) tightened its rules by increasing the transition period for lower testosterone from 12 months to two years and halving the maximum level to 2.5 nmol/L. The FINA ruling could increase pressure for similar moves inside other sports.